I was never clapped out at Mother Overbrook on Ordination Day. I graduated from another seminary and was ordained for another diocese. Yet, I did have my St. Charles Borromeo Seminary moment of applause. I can't remember if it was in 4th year or 5th when Jim Maguire, who was in charge of hebdomadariii, approached me with a confidential "fama est..." that permission had been granted to have the Martyrologium Romanum proclaimed during lunchtimes in English. Even though he had the permission to begin that right away, he wanted, for some strange reason, to wait two days for me to be the reader. I was sworn to secrecy, and I kept it inter nos, figuring it was good practice for hearing future confessions. Of course, I had to tell a few classmates a story:
"I am scheduled to read in the refectory in a few days, and I am sick and tired of hearing that Martyrology read in Latin. I can never understand it all. I translated it into English and I am going to read it in English!"
Their reaction was the same. "Yeah, right." "And Mundy and Biggy are going to give us a week of Lectio Brevi.”
So there I was, two days later. "The Roman Martyrology..." You could have heard a pin drop. You could have even heard the scratching of names being carved into the metal hot plates. At the end of the reading, the whole refectory erupted. A standing ovation!!!
This and many other memories filled my head as I drove into the seminary for the annual class of '72 anniversary dinner. Classmate, and now Dean of the Faculty there, John "JP" Collins hosted us with (early) Evening Prayer in the chapel located in the former library off of the Center of the House. (St. Martin's Chapel is used only a few times a year now. We did visit there, and a few of use tried "the chapel slide" again, but it doesn't work too well with aged knees!) Happy hour followed in the Faculty Lounge, a former classroom on the first floor. Dinner was served in the Faculty Dining Room, which most of us had never seen before. An added treat for me was the offer to stay overnight in the Faculty Wing. It was like being offered the Lincoln Bedroom in the White House. I could not pass that up! Only once in five years did I get to the Faculty WIng. I had to see Msgr. Coor to arrange for new felt tops for the pool tables since I was the "Master of the Pool Room," having won my class competition in the annual pool tournament that determined who was in charge of the room the following year, but lost in the overall finals to some young hustler from upstate whose name I don't remember. (The best shark on the pool tables in my class was Billy Kirk, but I won only because he didn't enter the tourney, perhaps not wanting to have to contend with re-covering tables and replacing the cue stick tips.)
"You've got Uncle Mac's room," JP announced as he handed me the keys. Guest rooms are on the first floor, JP and a few other faculty members live on the third floor, Archbishop Chaput has the entire second floor. I knew I was on sacred and historical ground. This was something I never imagined. After everyone left or retired for the evening, it was time to go to Uncle Mac's room. I climbed into bed wondering if visions of vis-eds would be dancing in my head all night.
I rose early to make the three-hour drive home in time for a doctor's appointment, what many in our class do a lot of these days. Continental breakfast, I was told, was available in the refectory before 8 o'clock. I poured myself some coffee, grabbed some fruit and yogurt, took a seat, and gave myself "the bell." But there was no one there to talk to you, no dean's table to sit at, no stories of martyrs being slaughtered to listen to. I finished, got in my car and drove out past the main Lower Side entrance where five times I stood this time of year clapping out the deacon class as they drove from the Upper Side past the entire student body on their way to the Cathedral to be part of the Order of Melchizadek.
Attending the event and adding to the memories and stories, in addition to JP and me, were the following elderly ordinandi (in no friendly particular or class order): Jake Grabish, John Eckert, Bill Harrison, Bill Kirk, Joe Kurtz, Pat Sweeney, Frank Trauger, Joe Logrip, Bob Wargo, Harry McCreedy, Hank McKee, John Martin, Joe Shields, Al Callaghan and Ed Windhaus.
I have to attach a couple of photos of some things I didn’t know. The Back Road has a name: Drexel Road. Uncle Mac’s bathroom mirror had a His and Hers side. Third person singular. “Possessive, Mr. Aigner. That will be in the big test!”
Fr. Ed Aigner is an alumnus of Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary.